The conference Brexit - Outlook and Effects on the Bulgarian Economy, which took place on 2 November in Sofia, was organised by the British Bulgarian Business Association and the German Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce with the aim to expand the current debate on the future of Bulgaria, the European Union and the United Kingdom in the context of the Brexit negotiations.

Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best possible outcome of the negotiations, logistics and supply chain planning, EU reform, and strengthening business relations between EU and UK companies are some of the highlights discussed at the conference. 

"Over the past year, there is an encouraging re-emigration trend, and Brexit creates opportunities to attract qualified Bulgarians back by showing them that there are opportunities for work and a good standard of living," said Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, who joined the debate with guest speakers from Germany and the UK. He commented that the secondary effects on the Bulgarian economy from Brexit are much more important, as limited access to the British market will inevitably lead to stronger competition in the EU.

Anne-Marie Martin, Chief Executive of the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE), presented the results of a pan-European survey of the business opinion regarding Brexit. She expressed the general concerns of the business that their voice is not heard by their national governments or by the negotiators in Brussels. "Modern business is highly integrated, and even companies operating on the local market will be affected through the network of suppliers of their clients and partners," Martin said, adding that business involvement in the negotiation debate is of great importance.

What producers in the UK want to see as a result of the Brexit talks is a smooth and planned UK exit from the EU, said Fergus McReynolds, Director of EU Affairs, EEF, the British Manufacturers’ Organisation. The island’s manufacturers are extremely dependent on the access of qualified engineers from the EU, as well as the maintenance of a unified regulatory environment with clear rules and equal conditions, he added.

Dr. Ulrich Hoppe, Director General, German-British Chamber of Industry & Commerce in  London, noted that business preparation must begin immediately, which is extremely difficult given the unclear results and timing of the negotiations. "Companies cannot switch to a new regime for one day, as the network of partners, customers and suppliers is very complex," he said.